SpaceX Starlink Achieves Text Messaging Milestone with Smartphones

13/01/2024
Woman uses Starlink Internet on roof with solar panels
Woman uses Starlink Internet on roof with solar panels

Breakthrough in Satellite Communication

SpaceX has reached a significant milestone with its Starlink satellite system, successfully sending text messages to and from standard smartphones. This development arrives shortly after the company’s deployment of six new satellites intended to function as orbiting cell towers.

Technical Details Under Wraps

Although the specifics regarding transmission speeds and latency remain undisclosed, SpaceX has confirmed that the initial tests and launch proceeded smoothly. The first set of messages was sent via a single “Direct to Cell” Starlink satellite, leaving the involvement of the other five satellites in the test unclear.

Overcoming Orbital Obstacles

SpaceX has acknowledged the significant hurdles in linking cell phones with satellites, highlighting the contrast between stationary terrestrial cell towers and the high-velocity movement of satellites. The company has engineered solutions to address the complex handoffs between satellites and the adjustments required for Doppler shift and timing delays.

4G Technology in Space

The satellites are equipped with LTE modems to enable 4G connectivity. However, the challenge of maintaining a stable signal to users on Earth is amplified by the satellites’ rapid orbital movement.

SpaceX’s Ambitious Satellite Expansion

Currently, Starlink has approximately 5,311 satellites in orbit and plans to expand its constellation by an additional 7,500 by the end of 2027. In the UK, the service costs £75 monthly, with an initial outlay of £449 for the home kit and an additional £20 for shipping.

Performance and Coverage

Customers can expect internet latency between 25-50ms, download speeds of 25-100Mbps, and upload speeds of 5-10Mbps. With 2.3 million users globally, only 42,000 are in the UK, where the service is predominantly used in rural areas.

Looking to the Future

SpaceX is targeting the launch of a satellite constellation that will enable basic text services by 2024, with plans to expand into voice, data, and IoT services by 2025.

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